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Last Month's Top Sellers

1. BOB DYLAN - Fallen Angels
2. PJ HARVEY - The Hope Six Demolition Project
3. STURGILL SIMPSON - A Sailor's Guide To Earth
3. ANOHNI - Hopelessness
5. LUCINDA WILLIAMS - Ghosts Of Highway 20

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FEATURED RELEASES

Saturday
Jun182016

RADIOHEAD - A Moon Shaped Pool

You don't need us to tell you that Radiohead has a new LP out. That news has a way of traveling. But it's worth noting that unlike 2011's King Of Limbs (a prickly release whose character was ill-suited to the overwhelming weight of being a NEW RADIOHEAD ALBUM©), A Moon Shaped Pool is far more welcoming and at ease with expectation, all without being especially reminiscent of anything they've done before. It's a deep dive into the acoustic folk of John Martyn and Nick Drake, but through the lens of the quintet's trademark slippery studio tricks. It's a grower, but it's probably their best full LP since Kid A.

"A Moon Shaped Pool, where Yorke somewhat loosens his death grip on that ol’ post-millennial angst as the rest of the band lets loose some of the most beautiful, composed, expressedly chill music of the lineup’s 30-year-long career. This isn’t saucy, jittery Radiohead (2011’s The King of Limbs), freaked-out New World Order Radiohead (2003’s Hail to the Thief), or pro-IDM, existentially-zombified Radiohead (2000’s Kid A, 2001’s Amnesiac). Instead, Pool somehow coalesces aspects all of these eras and emerges as a considered, filigreed, album-length sigh — a earnestly human sigh, a distinctly fortysomething sigh, with all the fears, trials, and exhaustions that middle age can accrue." - SPIN

"Never content to repeat themselves or fall into a conventional lane that defines what they are supposed to be, Radiohead is constantly pushing forward with new sounds and ideas that challenge the notion of rock and roll’s limits. Turns out there are none, at least in the hands of Radiohead. The band’s ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, follows the logical progression of The King of Limbs. It moves even further away from their electric guitar-based indie-rock roots and into more inscrutable and uncharted musical territory. Although it’s recognizably Radiohead, the album is quite different from anything they’ve ever done. It’s also breathtaking from start to finish, a triumphant return after the longest gap between studio albums in the band’s career. 

Many of the songs on A Moon Shaped Pool have been percolating for years, waiting for the band to figure out exactly how to translate them successfully. The opener “Burn the Witch”, for instance, was demoed as far back as Kid A, and then again for several subsequent albums, but they were never quite able to get under its skin. They finally do, and it’s glorious. “Burn the Witch” begins the album with a bracing barrage of terse and thrilling strings (an effect created by the players striking their strings with a stick rather than a bow), reminiscent of guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s hair-raising orchestral work for Paul Thomas Anderson’s brutally dark cinematic masterpiece There Will Be Blood." - PopMatters

Saturday
Jun182016

THE TRAGICALLY HIP - Man Machine Poem

Regardless of Gord Downie's state of health (an unavoidable angle looking at this LP) this is easily the most adventurous, left-field Hip LP in a very long time. It's moody and sombre, but it's also full of moments that see a veteran band eager to prove themselves all over again, eager to make the most of the possibilites offered them by a studio. Downie's solo work has always been wilder and more rangey compared to that of his day job. Here, the rest of the band meet him halfway and the results are both surprising and quietly thrilling.

"Co-produced by Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) and Dave Hamelin (The Stills), this is the Hip at their most challenging, and least immediately accessible. But while some of the experiments with texture and colour don't land — the Kid A-inspired opening track, "Man," is a little too Kid A-inspired, I'm afraid — much of the record is driven by a welcome sense of discovery and of artistic experimentation.
 
Propelled by Gordon Downie's distinctive vocals, the best sounding studio drumming of Johnny Fay's career and a relaxed intimacy between guitarists Rob Baker, Paul Langlois and bassist Gord Sinclair, Man Machine Poem is the Tragically Hip's most cohesive release since at least Music @ Work.

Goddamnit, I just don't want — nobody wants — this to be the last album by one of Canada's most consistently rewarding bands. But what a piece of luck that we get to have this record. What a piece of luck that we've been able to enjoy their music for so many years. What a piece of luck that we'll always have the Tragically Hip. Fully, completely. Ours." - Exclaim! 

Saturday
Jun182016

CASE/LANG/VEIRS - S/T

Some collaborations are shocking as to their origins and expectation of chemistry; others fall under the "I can't believe it took them this long" banner. case/lang/veirs is something else altogether: a pleasant surprise that few really saw coming, but one that undeniably brings a percolating sense of anticipation. To the shock of no one, these pros deliver big time. Fans of all three will be thrilled.

"The debut album by k.d. lang, Neko Case, and Laura Veirs has been compared to Trio, the 1987 effort from Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris, and the parallel makes sense in a way—there are few precedents for female solo artists banding together, and Americana is the black sheep on country’s family tree. But the titular Trio were at the height of their commercial powers in the late 1980s. Although titans in their respective fields, case/lang/veirs aren't really capitalizing on anything here. lang met Case and Veirs after she moved to Portland, and thought they’d be perfect for the punky girl group she wanted to form. She emailed them, simply stating, “I think we should make a record.” Within half an hour, they had both replied saying yes.

Rather than bring finished songs to the studio, they honored the spirit of collaboration, with Veirs and lang taking the bulk of the work, and Case, who lives primarily in Vermont, joining them when she could. These are three of the strongest voices in their field—lang the full-voiced seductress, Case the hurricane, and Veirs the wry storyteller—so things could easily have become overcrowded. Instead, they give each other space to take the lead on group-authored material, which wound up veering from lang’s original punk Ronettes template in favor of dusky songs about devotion, heartache, and awe at the simple power of human connection and creativity—the kind that underpins a project like this. “I Want to Be Here” is one of a few songs written by all three musicians, and finds them praising a misfit artist friend who “lost a front tooth, can’t keep a job,” Veirs sings, reassuring them, “but the things you make are so beautiful / They bring me joy / Don’t you ever stop.” Singing as a meditative campfire choir, they avow that “the hungry fools who rule the world can’t catch us / Surely they can’t ruin everything.”" - Pitchfork

Saturday
Jun112016

PSYCHIC ILLS - Inner Journey Out

Think Spiritualized and Brightblack Morning Light and you get the vibe of this uber-laid back desert psych LP. Sooooooo chill. Sooooooo good.

"Remember several decades ago, when the Beatles asked us to turn off our minds, relax and float downstream? Psychic Ills clearly do, and if their approach to their music is a far cry from what the Fab Four were up to, they've created one of the truly great "drifting on a cloud of lysergic thought" albums with their fifth long-player, 2016's Inner Journey Out. Obviously built around the notion that less is more, Inner Journey Out is made up of slow, contemplative numbers that embellish circular guitar and keyboard patterns as the musicians reach out to their hypnotic potential. Approaching something like psychedelic minimalism, Inner Journey Out's 14 tracks don't offer much in the way of melodies or hooks, but give them half a chance and you'll sink deep into this album like it's a comfy easy chair. For the most part, Tres Warren's lyrics don't amount to much, and are clearly meant to not distract from the music. But he does show a playful wit when he wants to (especially on "Coca-Cola Blues"), and he uses guest vocalist Hope Sandoval (of Mazzy Star) to fine advantage on "I Don't Mind." The band knows how to switch gears from the peaceful meandering of "Hazel Green" to the mildly ominous "Confusion (I'm Alright)" without taking the listener out of the larger experience." - AllMusic

Saturday
Jun112016

MILK 'N' COOKIES - Box Set

Essential 2CD/3LP set that reissues long lost NY proto power-pop band. Pretty much every song sounds like a hit even now. We love it. You will, too.

"Milk 'N' Cookies are the latest such group to benefit from this history-revising eye. They formed in the early 1970s in Woodmere, Long Island, a short drive from the bustling proto-punk scene in New York City, where the New York Dolls reigned supreme and their brand of glam-influenced gutter rock was already beginning to burn out under its own brilliance. While most of the local bands around them were steeped in stadium rock, Milk 'N' Cookies, still in their teens, decided to record 4-track songs influenced by the British glitter rock of the era—T. Rex, Bowie, Sweet, Roxy Music, et al.—and perhaps unwittingly became precursors to U.S. power pop. They have a major hand in creating the "tough glam" aesthetic, a sort of blend of UK androgyny, N.Y. grit and L.A. glamour that continued to rear its sequined head from the New Romantics to hair metal to Britpop, and beyond.

In their very first photo shoot, Milk 'N' Cookies sport long manes of brown hair, wearing novelty bowties and clutching teddy bears, yet the songs compiled on their first LP, reissued here by Captured Tracks, are all about girls, sex, and letting loose, still slightly scandalous subjects for suburban America at that point. Frontman Justin Strauss uses a sing-song, breathy voice, like a lovesick schoolboy taunting his crush on the playground. It's not emasculating at all, more of an assertion of desire that makes every Milk 'N' Cookies song seem ripped from a teenager's diary (which they very well may have been)." - Pitchfork

Saturday
Jun112016

DANIEL ROMANO - Mosey

Romano has spent the last eight years or so displaying an uncommonly literal affinity for nudie suits and George Jones-era country. If all the personalized fretboard inlays and homages to the genre's linguistic idiosyncracies could get a little over-the-top, the quality of the music left no doubt that it was a heartfelt endeavour. On Mosey, Romano strips away many of these signifiers leaving behind a lovely slice of bygone-era country pop psych. In the process, his own talent becomes ever clearer.

"Romano had grown up in rowdy punk and indie bands in his hometown of Welland, Ontario before turning to folksy Americana as part of Daniel, Fred and Julie and drowning in pedal steels, acoustic guitars and languid, rootsy lullabies on his early solo work. Feathers were ruffled when he started calling himself the ‘King of Mosey’ and strutting about like the lonesome, bohemian ghost of Hank Williams, with many questioning whether this was some kind of hipster affectation or parody piss-take.

That was never really the case. Romano was raised on his grandparents’ Merle Haggard and Buck Owens records and although his take on old time country is filled with quirks and oddities, Come Cry With Me and last year’s If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ were incredibly loyal and well-crafted interpretations of that vintage sound. Though still lost in that era, the time machine has started to malfunction slightly on new album Mosey and his imagination is left to run wild and take us to some weird and wonderful places." - The Line of Best Fit

Saturday
Jun112016

THE WAILERS - The Wailing Wailers

Few record labels can claim to blend cultural significance, social commentary, and great songcraft in the manner of Jamaica's legendary Studio One label. Since being recently purchased by Yep Roc records, Studio One's catalogue is undergoing a huge reissue campaign. The first salvo of that is the debut from The Wailers, a bouncy, optimistic LP that gave birth to a wealth of reggae icons and reflected the vibe in the newly independent nation.

"In 1964 The Wailers consisted of a five piece harmony group comprising Neville 'Bunny Wailer' Livingston, Winston 'Peter Tosh' Mackintosh, Robert 'Bob' Marley, Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso (who had replaced Cherry Green aka Ermine Bramwell). They were trained in voice control, harmonies and stagecraft in the "government yards in Trench Town" by successful singer and songwriter Joe Higgs, of Higgs & Wilson, before voicing their first records for the legendary producer Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, who founded one of Jamaica’s most renowned recording studios and record labels in the late 1950s. The label helped to pioneer ska, rocksteady, dub and dancehall, and discovered and released music from The Skatalites, Delroy Wilson, Jackie Mittoo, The Maytals, Jackie Opel, The Gaylads, Alton Ellis and, of course, The Wailers.

The first song The Wailers did for Studio One under the tutorship of Joe Higgs was the exciting ska tune "Simmer Down", which became a number one hit in Jamaica in February 1964. That song, directed to the 'Rude Boys' of the ghettos of Jamaica at the time, sending them a message to cool down or "Simmer Down" with all the violence and crime going on in Kingston, rounded off their 1965 released debut album "The Wailing Wailers", which now - for the very first time - gets a CD reissue with the original track listing and artwork. During their collaboration with 'Coxsone' Dodd, the Wailers recorded every different kind of music the producer requested of them. So the Wailers recorded traditional mento and calypso, gospel, folk, doo wop harmony, soul and pop covers, Christmas songs as well as their own material. This is why interpretations of songs such as Tom Jones' "What's New Pussycat", William Bell's debut tune from 1961 "You Don't Miss Your Water (When The Well Runs Dry)" and The Moonglows' beautiful doo wop song "Ten Commandments Of Love" are included on "The Wailing Wailers"." - Reggae Vibes

Monday
May302016

ANDY SHAUF - The Party

"Comparisons between musicians are blunt instruments. But if a more orchestral take on Elliott Smith appeals, Canadian troubadour Andy Shauf is a find. A singer-songwriter with a Beatles hang-up and a voice like sodden velvet, Shauf is on his second properly available album. The Party isn’t a concept album so much as a set of closely observed tracks linked by intersecting characters where Shauf replaces Smith’s more misanthropic tendencies with compassion and wry understatement. On the more indie-leaning Quite Like You, Shauf’s narrator makes a clumsy play for his best friend’s on-off girlfriend. Partygoers collapse or embarrass themselves; strings, clarinets and lush Harry Nilsson-style moments all add to the snapshot of an accomplished new voice." - Guardian

Sunday
May292016

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Boombox: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro and Disco Rap 1979-82

A LONG overdue collection from Soul Jazz that collects classic tracks from the dawn of hip hop and rap. Throw it on and get ready to have the mysteries of Beastie Boys, RUN-DMC, LL Cool J, Beck, and way more be revealed. Essential stuff. So clap your hands, everybody. Everybody clap your hands.

"This first exuberant wave of innocent, upbeat, ‘party on the block’ rap records were the first to try and create the sounds heard in community centres, block parties and street jams that first took place in the Bronx in the mid-1970s. But where Flash, Kool Herc and Bambaataa were back-spinning, mixing and scratching together now classic breakbeat records like The Incredible Bongo Band’s ‘Apache’ or Babe Ruth’s ‘The Mexican’, these first rap records were all made using live bands, often replaying then current disco tunes, whilst MCs rapped over the top, creating a unique sound that later became known derisively as ‘old school’.

And while hip-hop started in the Bronx, rap on vinyl began in Harlem where long-time established rhythm and blues producer-owned record companies such as Joe Robinson’s Enjoy Records, Paul Winley’s Winley Records, Delmar Donnel’s Delmar International and Jack ‘Fatman’ Taylor’s Rojac and Tayster were the first off the mark to realise the commercial potential of rap music - releasing early ground-breaking records that all quickly followed in the wake of the first rap record, The Sugarhill Gang’s Rappers Delight, a million-selling worldwide hit.

This collection celebrates these first old-school rap records, bringing together rare, classic and obscure tracks released in the early days of rap." - SJ

"Soul Jazz has a reputation for top-notch compilations that offer crash courses in a variety of styles and genres both beloved and obscure; they are, in essence, the K-Tel of the millennial generation.

This is one of the best Soul Jazz sets in ages, a legitimate party in a box, overflowing with underground deep cuts that have seldom — if ever — been spotted on other collections." FACT

Sunday
May222016

JOANNA BROUK - Hearing Music

"Flowering from studies with at the esteemed Mills College CCM and with Robert Ashley and Terry Riley in the ‘70s, the breathtaking and little-known recordings in Hearing Music are testament to the lush, earthly beauty of Joanna Brooks’ privately issued new age tapes made between 1981 and 1985 in The Bay Area, west coast USA. Channelling parallel strains of ambient and new age with a clear appreciation of classical minimalism, Joanna’s music is focussed on a spiritual essence yet it is mercifully shy of the sonic baggage that comes with new age’s more cloying facets.

This statement from Joanna really says a lot about her music, too: “I realised that, in many instances, it didn’t matter what you said, it mattered how you said it: the tone of the voice, the rhythm, the sound… Because sound has an incredible effect on other people, it can make them dance, put them into trances, it can control emotions by a certain pitch, a certain depth.” Taking this into account, Hearing Music cuts to the point, often working with only one or two elements in order to find their, and the player’s beauty thru a stark simplicity and evolving repetition found to be in harmony with the quartz-timed pace and elemental order of the natural world." - Boomkat

Sunday
May222016

BONNIE PRINCE BILLY & BITCHIN' BAJA'S - Epic Jammers

"I’ve kept all my fortune cookie fortunes. So I have hundreds of fortunes. I’ve always wondered why I keep these fortunes, and when we started to get together for this I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be a good thing. Arranging the fortunes, Oldham used them like a “sample kit,” a “palette for words” that allowed him to free associate and melodically improvise, with gentle platitudes at the ready to draw from. The lyrics drift in and out, positive and soothing, but quizzical and curious, too. “May life throw you a pleasant curve,” Oldham sings. “Show your love and your love will be returned,” he whimsically advises. Coupled with the Bajas’ mystic tones, the platitudes take on a warm resonance beyond their humble origins, like the cat from one of those “hang in there” motivational posters climbing out of its tree to purr in your lap.

“Music is, I think, meant to placate, complete, disrupt,” Oldham says. “It’s meant to be a part of psyches that are already pretty much formed but will be incessantly incomplete until death. I like that idea that the thing that I need most is some sort of accepting, comfort, and acknowledgment that things are unclear, but that one is not alone in experiencing this lack of clarity.”" - Aquarium Drunkard

Saturday
May212016

VARIOUS - Day Of The Dead

"Everything about Day of the Dead suggests that it long ago ceased being a fundraising exercise for the Aids charity Red Hot and turned into a painstaking labour of love. You can tell by its packaging, which is beautiful, and by the sleevenotes that gushingly attest to how obsessed its curators – the National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner – are with the album’s subject: Grateful Dead. In among the stuff about the how the spirit of Jerry Garcia lives on and the impossibility of doing the band’s legacy justice, there’s a conversation with Dead guitarist Bob Weir: when he mentions that he likes the National, the Desser twins are left incredulous at receiving a compliment from their idol. But most of all, you can tell by the sheer size of the thing: Day of the Dead goes on and on, as was the wont of the band that inspired it. The original idea was apparently to cover 10 of the Dead’s songs. In its finished form, the compilation is five CDs, 59 tracks and five and a half hours long.

 

Saturday
May072016

ANOHNI - Hopelessness

Even for someone as emotionally potent as Anohni (aka Antony Hegarty), HOPELESSNESS stands as a high watermark for affecting music. An album that is as sonically adventurous as it is political, vitality spills from its every pore. This is a triumphant record — not so much a return to form as a return to purpose.

"As leader of the chamber pop ensemble Antony and the Johnsons for two decades, the musician formerly known as Antony Hegarty has always been in dialogue with the present.  But now, with co-producers Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, there are many more layers of rigor to that conversation. Anohni has undergone a musical metamorphosis, crafting another outlet for her vision: the electronic dance anthem as visceral protest song. So much has unfolded in the six years since Anohni's last studio album with the Johnsons—Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, the trial of Chelsea Manning, the Black Lives Matter movement. Anohni—ecofeminist soul warrior, dramatist, a person who Lou Reed called an "angel"—it would be hard to find a more capable figure to lead us into a woke pop polemic.

Poignant political realities have always grounded Anohni's work, but now they are at the forefront, articulated with an incisiveness that stares you in the eye. You have never heard words like "chemotherapy," "child molesters," and "mass graves" crooned so gorgeously. HOPELESSNESS places Anohni alongside radical pop provocateurs like M.I.A., artists who propose difficult questions that mainstream America does not want to ask because it would not know what to do with the answers. But Anohni insists that we raise our stakes." - Pitchfork

Saturday
May072016

THE JAYHAWKS - Paging Mr. Proust

Reliable and timeless, it's easy to take a band like the Jayhawks for granted. So let's not make that mistake, people! Paging Mr. Proust is both vintage Jayhawks and something a little new — a work that appeases and surprises the faithful in equal measure.

"The Jayhawks’ ninth record Paging Mr. Proust opens with one of the best songs the band has ever released, “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces”. It’s the kind of song that, nearly 30 years into his influential career, one might presume that Gary Louris could knock out in his sleep. It contains all of the beloved, defining elements of the band: the plaintive lyrical introduction, shimmering folk-country guitars, and soaring harmonies, all of it anchored by Marc Perlman’s loping, confident bassline. If Louris were to create a paint-by-numbers system that churned out nine more of these in sequence and call it an album, I’m not sure there’d be much to complain about. The patented Jayhawks sound is just that good. 

But there is no painting by numbers here. Rather, Paging Mr. Proust might be the band’s most adventurous collection of songs to date. On it, Louris proves he is a songwriter devoted to adding new ideas and sounds to his creative palette. Joined by longtime collaborators Perlman, Karen Grotberg, and Tim O’Reagan and produced at turns by Louris, Peter Buck, and Tucker Martine, that sonic adventurousness might, ironically, lend longtime listeners attuned to the familiar cause for complaint. The new sounds can seem jarring at first listen, but quickly reveal common ground with the band’s contemporaries. “Lost the Summer” evokes Monster-era R.E.M. while “Comeback Kids” harkens to Wilco’s mix of electronica with Americana. “Ace” is the album’s deepest outlier from the classic Jayhawks sound, with its extended, feedback-drenched guitar jam that sounds more like an out-take from a Dream Syndicate record. Nonetheless, the dozen cuts here flow in an almost seamless sequence, and the album fits confidently into the band’s canon." - PopMatters

Saturday
May072016

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT - Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets

As someone who constantly weaves between the sacred and the profane, Rufus Wainwright is the perfect artist to give musical life to some of Shakespeare's best known sonnets. It's an ambitious project full of guest vocalists and speakers, that manages to honour the insight, humour, and beauty of the Bard.

"It’s hard to imagine how someone whose last album was an opera could out-do themselves, but Rufus Wainwright has achieved just that with Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets, to be released via Deutsche Gramophon on April 22, 400 years after William Shakespeare’s death.

Wainwright has a history with the Bard’s sonnets: The San Francisco Symphony commissioned Wainwright to orchestrate five sonnets, and the singer-songwriter also composed music for playwright and director Robert Wilson’s Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Wainwright’s 2010 album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, included three of these, including “A Woman’s Face”. Rather than stick exclusively to his symphonic and theatrical sonnet ties, Wainwright returned to other old collaborators. Marius De Vries, the producer of Wainwright’s Want One and Want Two albums over a decade ago, collaborates on this new album, which largely pairs gilded orchestral pieces with readings by guests including Helena Bonham Carter, Carrie Fisher, and William Shatner.

Two interpretations of “A Woman’s Face” demarcate the album’s 16 tracks — a “pop” version done by Wainwright and an operatic version by Austrian coloratura sopranoAnna Prohaska, who sings four other tracks on the album. Both are gorgeous, but the source material suggests interesting interpretations. Sonnet 20, lyrically written in the voice of a man, essentially translates to, “You’ve got the good looks of a handsome man, but you attract both women and men. But since nature gave you a dick, I’ll keep your love and women will enjoy your body.” Four hundred years later, this sort of complex feeling remains relevant, demonstrating how beauty is a fine, genderless line, and that grappling with sexuality is futile." - Consequence of Sound

Wednesday
Apr202016

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Nouvelle Vague

A musical portrait of Paris in the late 50s/early 60s years of the new wave. From jazz and soundtracks to bossa nova, folk and cha cha, this set brings you the unique sound of French pop during the Nouvelle Vague years. Featuring pop songs by Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy and Claude Nougaro as well as instrumentals from the Nouvelle Vague soundtracks (including The 400 Blows, Breathless, Lola, Cleo From 5 to 7) and a cool mix of rare tracks by Rita Cadillac (an ex of Alain Delon), Christiane Legrand and the jazz vocal groups Les Blue Stars. Compiled by French Music connoisseur Matt Robin and featuring 40 tracks and an essay with track by track analysis from French journalist Jacques Denis.

Wednesday
Apr202016

PJ HARVEY - The Hope Six Demolition Project

PJ Harvey is the kind of rarely accomplished artist about whom it could be said never makes the same record twice. But Hope Six is actually a strong sequel to 2011's Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake. Though the record and its stance courts a divisive response from critics and the public, her nearly unbroken streak of terrific LPs remains unassailable. 

"Putting together The Hope Six Demolition Project must have been quite the ordeal: it involved inspiration from trips to Kosovo, Washington, D.C. and Afghanistan with photographer Seamus Murphy, and was recorded publicly as an art installation aptly titled Recording in Progress, where audiences were invited to witness the birth of Hope Six at London's Somerset House and gaze at the band through one-way mirrors as they played, performed and recorded. It was a decision that evokes the themes of this record: Harvey herself became a spectacle to scrutinize, just as Hope Six evokes the idea of observation from an outsider perspective, describing events but not having any impact upon them.
 
Compositionally, Hope Six is gorgeous, and features some of Harvey's best melodies yet. Perhaps because she worked with the same producers, it shares a sonic atmosphere with 2011's Let England Shake, making it sound something like a sister album to that release.

Throughout, The Hope Six Demolition Project is observational yet impartial, wanting to help yet feeling helpless. It's just art, and Harvey seems to know that, so though this majestic album confronts the harsh realities and truths of the world in a medium most can grasp, she seems to wonder, as I imagine we all do, what can be done besides penning a poem or singing a song.
 
In this way, The Hope Six Demolition Project implicates all of the Western world's complacency, making for a complex and challenging, though gorgeous, listen." - Exclaim!

Tuesday
Apr192016

VARIOUS ARTISTS - California Soul

A selection of rare funk and soul from America’s West Coast courtesy of the indefatigable archivists at ACE/Kent.

"There is a Californian myth of sun, sand and tanned blondes of both sexes enjoying a life of carefree exuberance. For black America, the Golden State offered a different dream and throughout the 20th century the lure of a booming economy attracted millions to the most populous state in the Union. Where there is money, an entertainment industry invariably appears to relieve people of it, and all over California– especially in Los Angeles and San Francisco’s Bay Area – clubs, bars and record labels sprang up. In the immediate post-WWII years these attracted black musicians from all over the country hoping to make their fortune.

The boom years of the 40s and 50s were followed by a decade when social problems from elsewhere in the country arrived to pierce the dream. Independent labels had a hard time competing with the resurgent majors and super-independents such as Imperial owned by white entrepreneurs. The black scene was pushed underground.

But with many years experience behind them, musicians, songwriters and record men continued doing what they were doing – forever hoping the next success, the big break, was on its way. Stevie Wonder was recording at the Record Plant; with a bit of luck, next it could be them. This is the spirit captured on “California Soul” – club singers, former doo woppers, bands of kids off the streets all hoping to break out of their day-to-day life. If it didn’t work out, at least make a living doing something they enjoyed.

We have an amazing selection of funk and soul contained within the 20 tracks. From the Soul Sensations’ ballad ‘When I Had You, Baby’ – one of the finest examples of harmony singing you will ever hear – to the raw street funk of Little Johnny Hamilton’s two-part ‘The Git Down’ and everything in between, this represents the best music coming out of California at the time. Who could ignore the exceptional ‘Butterfly’ by the Ballads or the Brenton Wood-composed ‘Strike’ by Union featuring the vocals of Gail Anderson.

Also present are some previously unreleased masterpieces, great Temptations-style vocal funk and club classics such as Brenda George’s ‘What You See Is What You’re Gonna Get’. Some of these artists went on to bigger things; others drifted away from the business when success didn’t come their way. I’d argue that what we have here is their finest work." - Dean Rudland - ACE Records

Tuesday
Apr192016

COLIN STETSON - Sorrow (A reimagining of Gorecki's 3rd symphony)

Saxophone virtuoso and Polaris Short List Nominee Colin Stetson takes on Henryk Gorecki's 3rd Symphony, a modern classical touchstone for post rockers and orchestras alike.

"It makes sense that, when interpreting Górecki’s most famous work, Stetson tempered his experimental urges and kept the the core of the 3rd Symphony intact. Melodically and rhythmically, there’s little difference between his version and the original, the alterations coming from additions, not subtractions. Even when blood and tissue coagulate to form a more muscular body, you’re able to see Górecki’s skeleton underneath. The first movement, “Lento — Sostenuto Tranquillo Ma Cantabile”, still relies on his doomed interplay between the double basses, a seemingly endless whirlpool whose currents widen with each cycle. But where Górecki’s arrangement rose into a waterspout using only strings, Stetson augments the strains of Sarah Neufeld and Rebecca Foon with foreboding guitar drones and the full drum kit of Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, formerly of Liturgy), amping up the dread and longing with black metal emotionalism. 

This decidedly epic nature makes the rest of SORROW feel like something of a respite, despite the final two sections dealing with tragedies that are arguably more realistic than the Passion Play of the first. When the soothing yet melancholic vocal motif of “Tranquillissimo” starts riding on floor toms and Stetson’s saxes around the six-and-a-half-minute mark, we’re suddenly in more modern territory: ’80s soft rock by way of a dirge." - Consequence of Sound

Tuesday
Apr192016

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Kinked! Kinks Songs & Sessions 1964-71

"One of the greatest songwriting talents the UK has ever produced, Ray Davies was tremendously prolific right from his earliest days with the Kinks. His wry take on the British way of life was matched by uncanny melodic and commercial sensibilities, resulting in a body of work that remains unsurpassed. From ‘You Really Got Me’ on, the Kinks’ popularity and influence around the globe has been immeasurable, as ably demonstrated by the many covers of Davies’ songs.

“Kinked!” is an alternative celebration of the Kinks’ first decade, via the songs that “got away” when a surfeit of material was shopped by Davies’ publisher and management, both in the UK and overseas. These tunes include several signature items never officially recorded by the Kinks – ‘I Go To Sleep’, ‘This Strange Effect’, ‘All Night Stand’ – or often released well in advance of the Kinks’ own versions. The range of interpreters is wide, from pop-jazz chanteuse Peggy Lee and teen idol Bobby Rydell to Brit-girls the Orchids, UK mainstays the Pretty Things, sessioneer Nicky Hopkins, satirist Barry Fantoni, US garage punk avatars the Chocolate Watchband and R&B veterans the Olympics. Several cuts are previously unissued alternate versions / mixes or recent vault discoveries. “Kinked!” also gathers the known outside tracks to feature some or all of the Kinks as accompaniment, like the obscure ‘King Of The Whole Wide World’. And as writer, Kinks guitar slinger extraordinaire Dave Davies contributes one track, the rare beat pounder ‘One Fine Day.’" - Ace Records